What anti-war movement?

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images Over at the American Prospect, Paul Waldman suggests that the anti-war movement has failed itself. Here’s Waldman on groups such as Code Pink: They want to end the Iraq War, and make the American government more reluctant to use military force in the future. But … the idea that yelling at a ...

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595866_080321_codepink2.jpg

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Over at the American Prospect, Paul Waldman suggests that the anti-war movement has failed itself. Here's Waldman on groups such as Code Pink:

They want to end the Iraq War, and make the American government more reluctant to use military force in the future. But ... the idea that yelling at a couple of Marine recruiters week after week might have some actual impact on the speed with which we leave Iraq is so absurd one wonders whether even the participants believe it.... But that's not why they're there. They're there because it makes them feel good. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. That's why all of us do most of what we do.... But it becomes a problem when you hurt the cause you're trying to help, particularly when there are actual opportunities for effective action."

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Over at the American Prospect, Paul Waldman suggests that the anti-war movement has failed itself. Here’s Waldman on groups such as Code Pink:

They want to end the Iraq War, and make the American government more reluctant to use military force in the future. But … the idea that yelling at a couple of Marine recruiters week after week might have some actual impact on the speed with which we leave Iraq is so absurd one wonders whether even the participants believe it…. But that’s not why they’re there. They’re there because it makes them feel good. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. That’s why all of us do most of what we do…. But it becomes a problem when you hurt the cause you’re trying to help, particularly when there are actual opportunities for effective action.”

One of these days, a smart sociologist is going to sit down and write a book that explains just how, despite overwhelmingly anti-war public opinion, Americans allowed Iraq and Afghanistan to become the longest wars the country has fought in the last 100 years (with the exception of Vietnam). In other words, why did a viable anti-war movement fail to materialize despite the fact that two thirds of Americans believe the war is not worth fighting?

The answer might have something to do with the fact that most of the public debate about the Iraq war has been about the way it was sold and waged, not about ideology. “More competence” doesn’t exactly make for the best rallying cry. What’s more, many Americans don’t see the fight against militant Islam as a transcendent struggle akin to the Cold War. A majority now do not fear becoming a victim of the terrorists’ rage. And most aren’t particularly motivated to tangle with those who do. Some time back, Bob Kerrey, a former U.S. senator, 9/11 commissioner, and Medal of Honor recipient for his service in Vietnam quite rightly put it to me this way, harkening back to Vietnam:

[I]n the Vietnam War, you had a number of other fault line debates going on, civil rights being the largest, that tended to divide very much like the Vietnam War did—pro civil rights people tending to be anti-Vietnam War and so forth. They were exceptions to that. But it tended to break out that way. It was a great left-right debate going on. And by left-right, I mean communism versus liberal democracies, and it wasn’t an artificial debate. It was a real debate…. I have a much different sense of this debate than the Vietnam debate. This one is: We shouldn’t have gone there because there wasn’t weapons of mass destruction, that the administration lied to us—those are the sorts of things that you hear in the debate. And it’s just not as likely to galvanize a large audience the way the Vietnam War did.”

Commenters: Why not?

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